Need to know:
- Recognition strategies can help organisations avoid presenting a brand and set of values that do not resonate with the realities of the employee experience.
- Employers should take a creative, tailored approach to the perks on offer, as well as consider how the structure of the recognition programme itself will impact staff.
- Peer-to-peer and public forms of recognition are go-to elements that help maximise the effects of a branded scheme.
Transparency is increasing, and organisations are starting to be defined as much by their inner workings as by their external image.
Christopher Platts, co-founder and chief executive officer at ThriveMap, warns: “There has been a big shift towards employer brand over the past 10 years, but it’s come at a cost, which is communicating a story about life at [an organisation] that doesn’t match the reality.”
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Having a strong employer brand is no longer enough, agrees Luke Fisher, founder and chief executive at recognition platform Mo: “People in a service-orientated [organisation] are the brand. The marketers can try and put a veneer on what the organisation actually is, but the brand is actually every interaction somebody has with [the business].”
Whether prospective talent or potential customers, people can delve deeper into culture and values than ever before. Employers would do well, then, to ensure brand goes more than skin deep, and recognition may well be the key.
Integrating employer brand into the employee experience is not just about avoiding negative press.
Debra Corey, author, speaker and adviser to Reward Gateway, says: “At the end of the day, we are marketing to our employees as if they are our customers. Recognition gives [employers] a platform to keep the values alive and give people an opportunity to live and celebrate them.”
Ensuring that internal culture fits with what is being broadcast externally, notes Platts, also saves new recruits from becoming disillusioned and ultimately damaging the bottom line.
“People are less likely to leave if they fit the role and culture, and part of fitting the role and culture is accurately communicating [those elements] in the whole process,” he explains. “[Employees] are also more likely to push to be more productive if they feel like they fit in. People are realising that culture is more than a ping pong table.”
In the face of rapid growth, later-living organisation Inspired Villages is taking the time to define its brand which is to be embedded with the help of a recognition system. Other organisations, not in the enviable position of being able to start afresh, should look at existing systems and values.
Robyn Hannah, senior director, global communication at Dynamic Signal, explains: “Internal brand is truly the foundation of external brand: is what you’re selling externally aligned with what you’re selling internally? If that’s not being mirrored, that creates an opportunity for disconnection. You need to take a really close look at that gap and figure out how to close it.”
Then, employers should consider what recognition strategies fit within their chosen brand. With the goal of recognising everyday actions as well as long-term successes, Inspired Villages chose to use a system of instant monetary rewards, non-financial peer-to-peer thanks, and larger quarterly awards.
With numerous providers and products in the market, recognition programmes are relatively easy to drop in place. However, to have the best effect, organisations should avoid taking products off the shelf. Using creative, tailored rewards ensures that perks fit with the employer brand; an organisation that is focused on sustainability, for example, can provide environmentally friendly rewards.
Nevertheless, there are some go-to universals, such as peer-to-peer recognition, says Corey: “A manager doesn’t see everything. They’re not going to be able to capture all those amazing moments you want to recognise. Also, giving recognition can feel just as valuable as receiving it.”
Another universal factor is the value of public and shared success. Using an online social feed, or even just a noticeboard in an office, can create shared values and provide examples of behaviours to emulate.
Employer-specific delivery methods
The way recognition is delivered can hold as much weight as the values being lauded and the perks being won. For example, a periodical award ceremony might not be ideal for a culture that celebrates everyday successes.
As there is no one right way to provide an individual care service, Lawrence Cramer, HR director at Inspired Villages, says that numerous delivery methods are being implemented, with little prescriptive guidance in terms of what kind of behaviour should be recognised.
“Managers will know what ‘good’ looks like, and know when people have gone the extra mile and been exceptional,” he explains. “So, we’ve given our managers the autonomy and freedom to make those decisions.”
Inspired Villages offers top-down and peer-to-peer instant rewards and recognition, which range from a ‘shout out’ card from a colleague to a monetary award from a manager.
Recognition strategies aim to create positive behavioural change, but they can also have the opposite effect.
Organisations should avoid rewarding only success, for example, says Corey: “I’m a huge fan of recognising learning moments. Think of a sales person: they could spend tons of time trying to get a deal, and then it’s not their fault they don’t. That is the perfect time to recognise that person for all the things they did right.”
For Cramer, sales targets are still part of the equation, but there has to be a sense of brand throughout: “What we want [our sales teams] to be thinking about, first and foremost, is the values that we live by, because that’s what we want people, residents and employees, to buy into,” he explains. “They will see that we are genuine and that it’s not just about the hard sell.”
A recognition programme is an invaluable method of ensuring that behaviours and reward systems are aligned with the employer brand.
To be truly effective, this should be combined with a holistic commitment to the organisation’s values, echoed throughout the employee journey, from application to progression.
This will, in turn, strengthen the brand itself, says Hannah: “When you think about building towards employee advocates, what happens internally makes its way externally. That’s a lot of opportunities for your brand story to be told in a way that is either positive or negative.”
Fisher concludes: “It’s about creating moments [that stand out for employees]. The bigger those moments are and the greater the sense of pride or success, the better.”